Ask any writer you know if they’ve considered quitting. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Oh, right. You’re here because I’m a writer that you know. Well, the answer is yes. I’m pretty sure every author has thought about quitting.
J.K. Rowling probably had moments when she thought what was she was doing was pointless. Stephen King is held high as the example of a writer who plugged away and didn’t give up, despite rejection after rejection. But, I’m sure he had moments of considering whether it was worth it. Even after achieving notoriety, authors doubt themselves. They get vicious reviews, get pressured by agents and editors, and learn of low sales from their publishers and all of that makes them doubt. The publishing world is ever-changing and not necessarily in ways that are good for authors.
It’s tougher still for Indie authors. I never expected to make money on my first book, but I had hoped to have more interest in it than I’ve gotten. I’ve offered to give the book away, (hell, I have given away plenty of copies,) and I remain stagnant. A sale here and there. Never enough to pay for advertising. Not enough to pay for my pens. Don’t get me wrong, I never had delusions of becoming a bestseller. I only wanted to improve, to produce work that people would enjoy, and maybe make enough money to be self-sustaining.
I had prepared myself for scathing reviews. I wasn’t prepared for a total lack of them. Financially, I have bills that come regularly (renting a PO box, business fees, costs of running this website) whether I’m selling books or not.
I was also naïve enough to think that, as a writer, I’d spend my time writing. But so much time is spent in maintaining an online presence and the business side of things that often, I sit down to work and an hour later, I’ve not added a single word to my WIP, but instead have been gathering together tax documents or organizing a giveaway in an attempt to get reviews. Then, my time is up.
There is always the rest of my life to live and no matter how much I love that life, it can be frustrating to be unable to escape from its duties. I don’t get to go to an office for hours a day and work. I have to steal my moments during naptimes and episodes of The Haunted House. Everything I do is broken into 15 minute increments. Having chosen to pursue this as a means of making a living, there is pressure not to lose money on it, of course. And with stay-at-home-parenting comes the responsibility for the bulk of the household chores.
I’ve begun to feel as if every moment I “steal” to be a writer is a moment when I “should” be dealing with the pile of dishes in the sink, vacuuming, or scrubbing the toilets. Do the things that make me “ME” take precedent over the never-ending business of living? And where does writing fall within the scale? Is it a business for me or a hobby? What about the other things that keep me sane? What gets forgotten in all of this? What gets pushed out?
At the two-year anniversary of the release of The Scarring Underneath, I began to wonder whether I should quit while I was… not ahead, but at least not any further behind. And I haven’t been able to come up with an answer. With the production of the next book comes the need to find beta readers, pay an editor and a cover designer, and advertise, advertise, advertise.
I’m sitting at a fork in the road. One path is hidden by fog because I’m still not sure what it looks like to be an author who makes money. The other path is familiar. It’s littered with things that I used to do. Playing piano and saxophone. Riding horses. All the jobs I held and left. Training dogs. And down that road lies sensibility, too. A steady, paying job working for someone else, maybe. A simpler life without the stress of promoting myself to a public that reads less and less all the time. A life that doesn’t require throwing such an important part of myself to the mercy of a culture that places little value on art.
Many authors overcome these very troubles every day. It’s no harder for me than it is for any of them. Some might say that if I can’t deal with all of this, I should just get out of the industry and maybe they’re right. That’s the point. I have to decide whether to commit and double down on my efforts or move on with my life in another way.
I’m not writing this to get you to buy or review my book out of pity. I’m not asking for sympathy or fishing for encouragement. I’m sharing my journey, as I said I would do when I started this blog. And at this moment, it’s rough going. Maybe, whether you’re an author or not, you recognize part of your own journey in these words. And after all, that’s why I love books. Still and silent words on a page that may have been written a thousand years ago by someone we’ll never know, nonetheless reach out to us and pluck a relevant chord in our souls. How can that be anything but magic? And if magic exists, how can we not want to be a part of it?
No answers, no decisions. Just questions & contemplation.